By Dean Larson

Photos: Superformance

The 1969 Le Mans 24-hour event proved to be an exceptional race, and another exciting chapter in Ford’s international motorsport history. Five GT40s were entered by John Wyer’s J.W. Automotive, but the cars were showing some age compared to the latest European marques. Porsche was favored to win the event with its new 12-cylinder 917, and its cars made up an imposing 1/3 of the field.

Jackie Ickx, who was recovering from a broken leg, was chosen to pilot GT40 P/1075 along with Jackie Oliver. Nicknamed the Old Lady, P/1075 had raced at Le Mans before. In 1968, drivers Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi drove P/1075 to a commanding victory at Le Mans. The fact that 1075 even took the grid was impressive in its own right.

In protest to the traditional Le Mans running start, Jackie Ickx walked calmly to the car at the start and fastened all his safety belts before taking off, effectively putting him at the back of the pack. But a crash of the first lap brought the pack back together, and British driver John Woolfe was killed in the wreck, having not fastened his harness.

Porsche lead the race into the morning, with a pair of Wyer Fords running third and fourth. Around 10:00 am, both the leading Porsches came to the pits with mechanical failures, and P/1075 took the lead.

In the final hour of the event, Ickx battled with one of the remaining Porsches, a 908 model piloted by Herrmann and Larrousse. Knowing the aerodynamic Porsche would pass him on the Mullsanne straight, Ickx allowed the 908 to take the lead at the beginning of the straight, so that he could draft the Porsche and pass before the end of the straight. Ickx completed the pass and was able to hold the lead through the remaining portion of the lap, just as planned. The GT40 took the checkered flag, which was only the second time in race history that a single car won back-to-back victories at Le Mans.

Superformance has announced that it will build a series of special MkI GT40s commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans race. In addition to its standard configuration with A/C, customers can also order the special-edition car in the Tool Room GT40P/1075 configuration, which mechanically and visually replicates the original homologated race cars. The Tool Room option will provide customers with authentic features, such as Lucas electronics, Girling brakes, original-style roll bar, and loads of other components.

With Gulf Oil and Safir GT40 on board, each MkI will feature a P1000 continuation prototype chassis numbers, a limited edition Gulf GT40 guitar and a plaque naming 25 employees who brought the Gulf racing team such great success that 1969 season.

We're told more information and photos will be available this spring, so stay tuned. Also, check out the Superformance website for a complete list of equipment specifications.